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Why Missing the Perfect Parking Spot Is So Frustrating

Basically, it all comes down to the fact we struggle with sharing

When we paved paradise and put up a parking lot, we laid the foundation for decades of ferocious conflict between dueling parking spot seekers. Now, parking lots resemble battlegrounds, where cars and pedestrians alike feud over prime spaces to relieve their weary feet of walking. Below, you can find extreme (but sadly still routine) footage from the ongoing Parking Spot Wars (warning: Karens abound).

There are several common-sense reasons why parking lots are so damn conducive to rage. For one, everyone is in a hurry these days. The tenets of hustle culture leak into our daily lives, and we fill any free moment by checking our phones. You can see, then, why circling around a parking lot 15 times and watching as other people nab fantastic spots while you keep searching is immensely triggering.

Secondly, people are inherently territorial and feel strongly that they have a right to occupy public parking spaces. For example, numerous studies show that drivers take longer to vacate parking spots when someone else is waiting behind them, and even longer when an impatient space seeker honks at them. Researchers attribute this to us wanting to proclaim our rightful ownership of public parking spaces, and when that right is questioned by a honking motorist, the impulse is to reestablish control — and that we can stay put for as long as we damn well please — by taking even longer to leave the space. 

Put simply, we feel owed good parking spots — or at least public space in general — and get super pissed when other drivers challenge that by taking up “our” spaces.

Similarly, the cult of competition in America has transformed parking into a fierce matter of winning or losing. “Many of us, especially men, have much ego invested in our driving prowess, which is somewhat competitive in nature, as we wrestle for parking spaces and lane switches,” says Ron Potter-Efron, author of numerous anger management books, including Angry All The Time. “So, losing a parking spot is a defeat and may even be shaming, especially if one’s partner is along for the ride. Also, a ‘victory’ by getting the spot might give us a little squirt of testosterone, while a sudden defeat may lower the production. I do know some women are pretty fierce competitors as well, as a few have yelled at me for taking their parking spot first.” While studies point to young men as most likely to exhibit road rage, women also experience road rage at frighteningly frequent levels.

In short, the Parking Spot Wars are caused by a combination of human nature and our cultural expectations. However, you can do your part to make parking easier for everyone by thinking of it as a community exercise, rather than a competition. Remember, we all share the road, and you never really know what the person in the car ahead of you is dealing with. Plus, logically speaking, getting pissed will only slow down your parking spot search even more.

Better yet, physicists have come up with a scientific approach to parking, as they’ve found that drivers who take one of the first few spots they see generally save more time and walking than drivers who gamble on finding a spot closer to their destination. So be conscious of our inherent leaning toward the path of least resistance, which frequently leads us to circle around for 15 minutes instead of parking a little further away and walking for a minute or so.

Oh, and always be on the lookout for rogue shopping carts.

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